On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

Working with the IL Framework, Knowledge Practices, and Dispositions

We’ve been working with a set of standards, each of which has specific and measurable competencies demonstrable as performance outcomes, for over 15 years.  Academic librarians have crafted library instructional sessions to align with these standards, produced seminars and workshops, as well as entire conferences and webinars.  Recently installed librarians bring a renewed energy to the standards professional librarianship.

Measurable competencies are the backbone of the standards currently in place, to which all Information Literacy Skills Development sessions I deliver and respond are aligned.

ACRL Standards for Information Literacy Competency in Higher Education (2000)

Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is a requirement common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, direct themselves and their learning path. An information literate individual can:

  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally
(Photo Credit: COO Public Domain)

(Photo Credit: COO Public Domain)

      Explore the standards more completely through the following links to the ACRL website:

Standard One: Know

Standard Two: Access

Standard Three: Evaluate

Standard Four: Us

Standard Five: Ethical/Legal

During the past two years, ACRL has worked to deliver an inclusive and transparent process whereby membership can offer opportunities for input and direction – surveys, conference calls, and open forums. Though initially a tad skeptical of the terminology, I purport that the framework of threshold concepts are the core concepts a student needs for success in any discipline or subject, and at any level of higher education. I keep up-to-date by following and reading the ACRL Framework WordPress site.

The difficulty I am experiencing, and about which I am hesitant, lies in the application of the framework in a relevant and meaningful way in a classroom or online environment. Often, we (academic librarians) have only one-shot opportunities to engage students and apply the concepts to their learning.

The framework has been rolled out.  Intense conversations in the blogosphere, on Twitter, and within my community of practices has increased the tempo.  What will an instructional session look like now?  How will we present and discuss these knowledge practices and dispositions to faculty as we consult to integrate information literacy skills development into courses and curriculum?

Meyer and Land’s various works are the basis of the thresholds. Meyer and Land argue that thresholds concepts are:

  •     transformative – as students understand the why of an idea, supposition, topic, event, position, etc.
  •     integrative – allowing for connections between fields of inquiry
  •     irreversible – as learning has forward movement
  •     troublesome – in the context that thresholds challenge prior understanding
  •     bounded to a specific discipline

Our college learners are both consumers and creators of information, the essential premise for threshold concepts, particularly that, “authority is constructed and contextual”. For many, this threshold is problematic; however, for information literacy skills development, it means that using any source that is appropriate to solve the information problem and meet the information need is acceptable, with critical justification.  This framework moves away from the scholarly focus on research papers, turning towards opportunities for creation and collaboration and giving the the nod to digital humanities. The ACRL Framework allows for creative, integrative, and flexible thinking – not merely critical thinking.

I am about to sit down a while and read Susanna M. Cowans’ article, “Information Literacy: The Battle We Won that We Lost?”  This will be an opportunity for me to resolve my hesitation with the framework and accept thresholds more fully as I aim to put the frames into practice. I missed the ACRL webinar, Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts: Lesson Plans for Librarians, but have requested a copy of Gayle Schaub and Hazel McClure’s new book, Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts.  I hope it arrives soon as I want to be prepared as I adapt my existing pedagogy, instructional practice, lesson plans and program for the upcoming term.

Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education

Information literacy is a spectrum of abilities, practices, and habits of mind that extends and deepens learning through engagement with the information ecosystem:

  •  understanding essential concepts about that ecosystem;
  • engaging in creative inquiry and critical reflection to develop questions and to find, evaluate, and manage information through an iterative process;
  • creating new knowledge through ethical participation in communities of learning, scholarship, and civic purpose;
  • adopting a strategic view of the interests, biases, and assumptions present in the information ecosystem.

The Frames

  • Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
  • Information Creation as a Process
  • Information Has Value
  • Research as Inquiry
  • Scholarship as Conversation
  • Searching as Strategic Exploration


Definitions from the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

Threshold concepts are core or foundational concepts that, once grasped by the learner, create new perspectives and ways of understanding a discipline or challenging knowledge domain. Such concepts produce transformation within the learner; without them, the learner does not acquire expertise in that field of knowledge. Threshold concepts can be thought of as portals through which the learner must pass to develop new perspectives and wider understanding.

Knowledge practices are the proficiencies or abilities that learners develop as a result of their comprehension of a threshold concept.

A disposition is a tendency to act, or think, in a particular way. More specifically, a disposition is a cluster of preferences, attitudes, and intentions, as well as a set of capabilities that allow the preferences to become realized in a particular way.

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